How Xdebug Can Assist You Develop into a Higher WordPress Developer

by | Oct 11, 2022 | Etcetera | 0 comments

As any developer can attest, code isn’t in a position for production after the main draft. One key part of the development process is debugging — removing or changing all parts of your code that don’t art work.

The Xdebug extension for PHP is a popular solution to root out and destroy all the bugs in your code.

One of the vital great aspects of Xdebug is how flexible it’s. Regardless of your preferred framework or development atmosphere, you’ll be able to find a version of Xdebug that slots into your workflow. From there, getting a deal with on the instrument won’t take long.

This tutorial will check out Xdebug in depth, in conjunction with the arrange process, integrating it into your setup, and fundamental usage.

First, let’s get a hold of additional context on what Xdebug is and what it does.

Introducing Xdebug

Xdebug is most probably considered one of the most up to date extensions to debug your PHP code. You’ll arrange it from inside of your most well-liked atmosphere, and it acts as a “step debugger.”

A green layered background showing the Xdebug logo, complete with a green 'X'.
The Xdebug logo.

Briefly, this lets you art work in your code line by means of line so that you’ll be capable of step via and try how the code acts and interacts inside of your program, along with read about its output. From there, you’ll be capable of make changes as you notice have compatibility.

Xdebug can do much more, despite the fact that:

  • You’ll analyze the efficiency of your code the usage of a set of metrics and visualizations.
  • When you run PHP unit tests, you’ll be capable of see which suites of code you run and execute.
  • Xdebug contains “tracing” purposes, which is able to write each and every function identify to disk. This may occasionally most probably include arguments, variable assignments, and return values.
  • Xdebug moreover makes improvements to the standard PHP error reporting. We’ll cover additional on this later.

Given the serve as set, there are lots of techniques to use Xdebug (and any an identical debugger) inside of your workflow. We’ll cover the ones inside the next phase.

Debugging is a key a part of the improvement process- and Xebug is right here to make that activity more uncomplicated 💪Click on to Tweet

Why You’d Want To Use Xdebug

Many developers won’t have a faithful debugging workflow that uses third-party apparatus and extensions. It’s as a result of PHP contains its private rudimentary error logging. You’ll use directions very similar to error_log, var_dump, and print to see the results of variables and function calls.

As an example, there are lots of snippets you’ll be capable of repurpose for WordPress development — Stack Overflow is rife with them:

function log_me($message) {
  if ( WP_DEBUG === true ) {
      if ( is_array($message) || is_object($message) ) {
          error_log( print_r($message, true) );
      } else {
           error_log( $message );
      }
  }
}

Then again, there are some important drawbacks to this fashion:

  • You first must you’ll want to permit error logs for the platform you may well be working with. In this case, you’ll want to permit WP_DEBUG (additional on this shortly).
  • This example of “dump” debugging supplies a lot much less scope for investigation than step debugging. Proper right here, you’ll be capable of best output regardless of you define.

The latter point calls for lots manual effort, specifically if your day activity isn’t as a sysadmin. As an example, if you want to debug a code block, it’s imaginable you’ll add your snippet consistent with a variable you define. Then again, it’s going to now not be the provision of the problem or even indicate what’s happening.

As an alternative, a tool very similar to Xdebug can art work its magic to provide greater scope:

  • You’ll “harm” your code at fairly numerous problems right through the execution to see what’s going on in real-time.
  • There are myriad metrics, visualizations, branches, and further that will help you test what your code is doing and how it responds.
  • Every now and then, you’ll be capable of even exchange values on the fly right through the debugging process. This provides immense value, even for suites of code that art work neatly. You’ll essentially carry out manual unit tests at any point.
  • Because you use breakpoints to mark up areas to debug, you don’t wish to art work with snippets inside of your code. This helps to keep your code cleaner and reduces the selection of longer term issues.

Overall, the usage of a tool very similar to Xdebug is a proactive selection fairly than a reactive one. You’ll use step debugging as part of the core development process, very similar to imposing unit tests as part of test-driven development (TDD).

How To Turn On PHP Error Logging

While it’s profitable to debug your code without a specific error, it’s steadily very good to grasp if a subject occurs without having Xdebug open. This provides you with a start line for exploration. It’s not strictly important, alternatively is typically an invaluable part of your chain.

To document each and every error that arises, you’ll wish to add a line to the absolute best of the similar PHP record:

error_reporting(E_ALL);

This can be a catch-all command, and also you’ll be capable of succeed in the an identical the usage of the ini_set function:

ini_set('error_reporting', E_ALL);

This permits you to exchange settings inside of your php.ini record on a project-by-project basis. While it’s profitable to transport into this record and make a manual exchange, it’s steadily a better idea to art work with ini_set to change the right parameter:

ini_set('display_errors', '1');

Once you have energetic error reporting set on your liking, you’ll be capable of beginning working with Xdebug.

How To Use Xdebug

Over the next few sections, we’ll show you discover ways to use Xdebug, in conjunction with the steps you’ll wish to set problems up. While we can’t cover each and every instrument facet, this quick-start knowledge will get you going fast.

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First, despite the fact that, you need to place in Xdebug. Let’s find out how to do it.

1. Arrange Xdebug for Your Operating Tool (OS)

On account of Xdebug is adaptable to any selection of setups, the precise activity for each and every one will likely be fairly different. At the OS level, there are a few permutations:

  • House home windows: This can be a fairly tricky setup process that involves the usage of an provide PHP record and an set up wizard, then downloading the right kind version in your elements.
  • Linux: The method that is arguably the most straightforward: You’ll use a package deal supervisor to place in Xdebug, or the PHP Extension Neighborhood Library (PECL).
  • Mac: The program may be simple: When you arrange PECL, you’ll be capable of run pecl arrange xdebug from a Terminal instance. You’ll moreover wish to have XCode command line apparatus and PHP installed in your elements.

Then again, most shoppers won’t want to stick to a system-level instance of Xdebug. As an alternative, you’ll want to mix it into your own development atmosphere.

2. Mix Xdebug Into Your Development Environment

When you arrange Xdebug in your OS, you should connect it on your atmosphere.

There are so many supported techniques and gear appropriate right here that we can’t transfer into all of them. Later on, we’ll provide you with instructions for each and every DevKinsta and PhpStorm. Even so, there are lots of other same old environments to choose from. Below are a couple of of our highest tips.

Quite a lot of Vagrant Vagrants (VVV)

VVV is among the named environments on the Make WordPress web site:

A blue background containing 8-bit ASCII art of the Varying Vagrant Vagrants logo (
The Quite a lot of Vagrant Vagrants logo.

The good news is that VVV already includes a edition of Xdebug, alternatively you need to activate it. You’ll do this the usage of Safe Shell (SSH) inside of a Terminal window:

vagrant ssh -c "switch_php_debugmod xdebug"

There’s a little bit bit little little bit of a potency hit, despite the fact that, and likewise you’ll wish to turn this option once more on when you provision your web pages.

Laravel Valet

For some shoppers, Laravel’s Valet represents a near-perfect web development atmosphere. Even upper, you’ll be capable of mix Xdebug with it.

To do this, you’ll wish to create a configuration record for the debugger. You’ll to find your own path the usage of php --ini at the command line, which is able to return a few different record paths:

A Terminal window showing a list of paths of .ini PHP configuration files, and an empty command prompt cursor.
The Terminal showing a list of configuration record paths.

Next, create a brand spanking new xdebug.ini record at the path for additonal .ini knowledge. In our example, it’s at /come to a decision/homebrew/and so forth/php/7.4/conf.d.

When you open this new record, moreover open the path to the Loaded Configuration File (your main php.ini record). With each and every open, add the following to the bottom:

  • php.ini: zend_extension="xdebug.so"
  • xdebug.ini: xdebug.mode=debug

When you’ve saved your changes, run valet restart from the Terminal, then add phpinfo(); pass out; to one amongst your website online’s knowledge. You’ll want to try whether or not or now not this works via a to hand information a coarse internet web page load all through the browser.

A PHP information file within the browser, showing the Xdebug logo and the
The PHP wisdom visual display unit.

Bear in mind which you want to wish to restart PHP the usage of sudo brew services and products and merchandise restart php as well as to try that your elements arrange of Xdebug is proper the usage of php --info | grep xdebug. You’ll understand the Xdebug-specific strains all through the output:

A Terminal window showing a number of different Xdebug configuration settings (such as output names and display variables). The prompt shows the

From appropriate right here, you’ll be capable of look to incorporate Xdebug into your coding editor of variety.

XAMPP

Similar to Valet, there are a few parts to the process for XAMPP. Then again, House home windows and macOS permutations have two different processes.

Get started by means of setting up XAMPP, then run a to hand information a coarse check out to see if the php_xdebug.dll record (House home windows) or xdebug.so record (macOS) exists in your elements:

A Terminal window showing a snippet to test whether a while exists. If it does, the Terminal will output
A Terminal window showing a read about for a XAMPP record.

If the record exists, you’ll be capable of switch without delay to the configuration. Otherwise, you’ll first wish to obtain both the proper binary for House home windows — a 64-bit record in your preferred PHP version — or arrange a few additional dependencies when you’re on a Mac.

For House home windows, rename the DLL record php_xdebug.dll, then switch it to the xamppphpext record path. Next, open the xamppphpphp.ini record in your most well-liked code editor and add the following:

output_buffering = Off

At the [XDebug] phase, add the next 3 strains:

zend_extension=xdebug
xdebug.mode=debug
xdebug.start_with_request=motive

When you save your changes, restart Apache and read about for Xdebug.

For Mac, you’ll want to you’ll want to arrange the Xcode command line apparatus the usage of xcode-select --install at a Terminal instance. After that, there are 3 packages you’ll want to arrange the usage of Homebrew:

brew arrange autoconf automake libtool

In some cases, you’ll moreover wish to reinstall XAMPP to get each and every the core program and the “Developer Data.” You should be able to re-install best the ones knowledge, alternatively you’ll want to carry out a backup of your provide setup first.

Next, navigate to the download for the Xdebug provide folder in your elements and unpack the TGZ record. Within a Terminal window, navigate to that record and run the following:

phpize
pecl arrange xdebug

Bear in mind which you want to wish to use sudo appropriate right here too. From appropriate right here, you’ll be capable of edit the XAMPP php.ini record. For plenty of macOS installations, you’ll to find it at /Applications/XAMPP/xamppfiles/and so forth/php.ini. Within this record, you’ll moreover to find the path on your xdebug.so record — follow this down and use it relatively than the record path placeholder for this snippet:

[xdebug]
zend_extension=/path/to/xdebug.so
xdebug.mode=increase,degug
xdebug.start_with_request=positive

To test whether or not or now not this works, create a brand spanking new xdebug_info.php record inside of the main htdocs XAMPP record. Within, add the following:

<?php
xdebug_info();

…then refresh Apache and read about Xdebug inside the browser.

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The usage of PhpStorm With Xdebug

When you arrange Xdebug at some point of the OS and your development atmosphere, you’ll moreover wish to view the debugger itself. You’ll do this via your most well-liked code editor or built-in construction surroundings (IDE). As in conjunction with your atmosphere, there are so many to choose from, and each and every one would most likely have a distinct method.

That discussed, many developers come to a decision to use JetBrains’ PhpStorm. In reality, PhpStorm supplies “WordPress-aware help” — and it’s a popular variety for various other reasons, too.

The PhpStorm interface, with a tree directory for the project on the left that uses white, blue, and yellow text. The right-hand side contains PHP code for a WordPress plugin, using orange, purple, green, and white text.
The PhpStorm interface.

The JetBrains web site contains whole instructions on connecting Xdebug and PhpStorm, alternatively we’ll evaluation them appropriate right here.

First, navigate to the Languages & Frameworks > PHP internet web page all through the Preferences pane. Proper right here, open up the Further Items kebab menu next to the CLI Interpreter dropdown field:

A partial PhpStorm Preferences screen, showing the page link (
Selecting a CLI interpreter in PhpStorm.

This may occasionally most probably show some further details about your PHP version and interpreter. When you click on at the Further items ellipsis next to the Configuration record selection, you’ll see whole paths in your php.ini record:

A partial PhpStorm More Items screen showing the name of the configuration, a path to the PHP executable file, the current PHP and debugger version numbers, and a list of configuration files for various aspects of the PHP installation.
Amending the PHP configuration inside of PhpStorm.

You’ll be working with this PHP record next to continue the setup process.

Running Within the php.ini File

The main process that is to edit out any strains that impact how Xdebug will art work with PhpStorm.

Within the php.ini record, seek for the following strains and each remove them or statement them out:

zend_extension=
zend_extension=

The ones strains won’t be present in all cases, so don’t be alarmed when you aren’t seeing them.

Next, add the following to the record:

[xdebug]
zend_extension="xdebug.so"
xdebug.mode=debug
xdebug.client_host=127.0.0.1
xdebug.client_port=""

There are a few things to note about this suite of code:

  • You will have already were given an [xdebug] phase, through which case you are able to fail to remember the main designation.
  • The zend_extension get right of entry to would most likely need you as a way to upload the overall path of xdebug.so to glue.
  • While it will seem to be a placeholder, the xdebug.client_port parameter is the best way you’ll set it inside of your code.

When you add the ones, save and close the record, then read about the PHP version from the command line (the usage of php --version):

The Big Sur blue, red, and purple gradient desktop background, showing a macOS Terminal window. It shows the "php -version" command, along with the PHP version number, a copyright notice, and installed versions (complete with version numbers) for Zend Engine, Xdebug, and Zend OPcache.
Trying out for the existing installations for PHP and Xdebug the usage of the macOS Terminal.

If in case you have a working version of Xdebug, it will show as one of the vital PHP extensions. You can moreover add phpinfo(); to a brand spanking new record and read about this inside the browser.

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This is in terms of all you need to do to have Xdebug art work as your default debugger with PhpStorm. The full step quicker than the usage of it is setting up a browser helper extension.

Setting up a Browser Helper Extension

The full key connection you’ll wish to make is between your browser and PhpStorm, finished by means of activating step debugging on the server. While you could do this from the command line the usage of specific GET or POST values, it’s more uncomplicated to use an extension.

We recommend the use of the faithful Xdebug Helper extension. You can arrange it in your browser of variety:

If you want to uncover other extensions, the JetBrains web site supplies a few additional alternatives for the most popular browsers.

When you’ve put on your most well-liked browser extension, you shouldn’t must keep an eye on any longer configuration settings. From appropriate right here, you are able to begin to use Xdebug with PhpStorm.

The usage of Xdebug

While we’ll use PhpStorm appropriate right here, you’ll see a an identical layout and interface between different IDEs — despite the fact that there can also be some obvious permutations.

There are a few concepts that blend to form all the debugging experience:

  • Breakpoints: The ones are the problems where Xdebug will save you to let you check out the output. You’re able to set as a lot of the ones as you’d like.
  • Listening for connections: You can toggle this on and off, despite the fact that most developers will always pass away it on.
  • The debugging visual display unit: Just about all your time will likely be spent all through the debugging interface — it’s where you’ll art work with the fairly numerous strains of code, variables, and parameters.

The first step is to activate listening — you won’t be able to debug anything without it. To do this, click on on on the Run > Get began Listening for PHP Debug Connections selection inside the toolbar:

A partial PhpStorm interface screen, showing a tree directory on the left, and the application toolbar. The Run menu is open, and the
The open Run menu inside of PhpStorm.

As a substitute, you are able to click on on on the “telephone” icon inside of PhpStorm’s toolbar:

A close-up of the PhpStorm toolbar, which displays options for the current run configuration, various Git options, and the Start Listening for PHP Debug Connections telephone icon (complete with tooltip).
Listening for PHP debug connections the usage of the telephone icon all through the PhpStorm toolbar.

Either one of the ones alternatives will supply the listening for connections.

From appropriate right here, you are able to begin to set breakpoints all through the code editor’s gutters. A crimson dot indicates a breakpoint, which you are able to click on directly to activate:

A close-up of the PhpStorm interface, showing a tree directory on the left, and the coding panel on the right. Within the gutters of the editor, there are red dots with white ticks at lines 45, 50, and 55. These are breakpoints for debugging.
Breakpoints all through the gutter of a PhpStorm editing internet web page.

When you wish to have to debug your code, the most straightforward method is to start out out listening, set breakpoints, then head to the right internet web page in your browser. To find the icon in your extension all through the browser, then click on on on it and make a choice the “Debug” selection:

The Mozilla Firefox browser, showing the green background (and
Settling at the Debug selection all through the browser toolbar the usage of a faithful extension.

This may occasionally most probably open the debugger in PhpStorm and send each the great or bad knowledge:

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A partial PhpStorm screen, showing an open debugger panel. The left shows various breakpoints, complete with filenames, line numbers, and function references. The right shows the values of the variables throughout the code, along with the value types.
The usage of the PhpStorm debugger with Xdebug.

When you right-click on the fairly numerous values, attributes, parameters, and variables, you’ll be able to get entry to an extra context menu. This provides you with quite a few further scope to test and debug your code:

A portion of the PhpStorm Debugger interface with a list of breakpoints, filenames, line numbers, and function references on the left. The right shows a highlighted value within the code, with a context menu open. Among the options is "Set Value…" — the way to assign new values to variables and debug the code.
The usage of the right-click context menu all through the PhpStorm Debugger to set new values.

As an example, you could set different values for variables along the path. This generally is a deliberate attempt to harm your code and see what happens, or it may be a solution to read about out code that already needs a restore. Each method, this provides you with an unbelievable method for debugging your code without a want to range it first.

How Kinsta Helps You to Debug Your WordPress Web page

WordPress comes with its private set of debugging choices via WP_DEBUG and other apparatus, similar to Question Track. The ones permit one way through which you’ll start to see prior to now hidden error messages in every single place your website online and dashboard. From there, you are able to begin to decide what the problem is.

You can moreover save those error messages the usage of WP_DEBUG_LOG, which provides you with a solution to file the issues in conjunction with your website online. We cover discover ways to set this up in any other article at the weblog. This can be a breeze to prepare via your MyKinsta dashboard (and the Internet sites > Tools visual display unit):

The MyKinsta dashboard, showing the left-hand purple sidebar, and a further gray submenu. There are two options to toggle here — a search and replace tool on the right, and the WordPress debugging tool on the left.
The WordPress debugging selection all through the MyKinsta dashboard.

When you pair this with the unfastened DevKinsta native surroundings software, you’ll if truth be told have a one-click solution to allow and disable WP_DEBUG for each and every website online you spin up:

The DevKinsta dashboard for a single site. It shows the database settings, including host, port, name, and user credentials. There is also a
Enabling WP_DEBUG inside of DevKinsta’s keep an eye on panel.

This means you are able to catch errors in your website online right through development, and make sure they don’t make it via on your reside website online. The ones modes are also easy to blow their own horns — crucial for each and every website and person safety.

All Kinsta plans moreover come with the built-in Kinsta APM software, which is our custom-designed potency monitoring instrument for WordPress web pages.

Command Cheat Sheet

Forward of we wrap up this submit, we should indicate shortcuts.

Like many various tool pieces, there are fairly numerous techniques to navigate spherical Xdebug (and PhpStorm) the usage of the keyboard alone. In reality, you could even use the command line to debug PHP scripts.

Once Xdebug is up and dealing, you are able to use the following directions to get spherical:

Command Shortcut
Specific the port to pay attention to (very similar to [9003]) -p [value]
Devices a breakpoint on the specified line for the record path given. breakpoint_set -t line record:/// -n
Runs your script until the end, or the next breakpoint run
Steps into the next executable line step_into
Lists variables and values inside the provide scope context_get
Displays the cost of the required assets property_get -n

While your specific code editor may have its private faithful shortcuts, the focus that is on PhpStorm. Take a look at this table of keyboard shortcuts for the usage of Xdebug with PhpStorm:

Command House home windows macOS
To find Movement Ctrl + Shift + A Shift + Cmd + A
Open the Debugger Shift + F9 Ctrl + D
Toggle Breakpoint Regulate + F8 Cmd + F8
Step Into F7 F7
Step Over F8 F8
View Breakpoints Ctrl + Shift + F8 Shift + Cmd + F8
Resume the Program F9 F9
Evaluation the Provide Expression Alt + F8 Risk + F8

Thankfully, there isn’t such a lot to memorize appropriate right here. You must open the debugger, set breakpoints consistent with line, pay attention for connections, and run your scripts.

Then again, if you want to have a shortcut for a decided on process, you are able to use the PhpStorm To find Movement command:

The PhpStorm interface, showing the Find Action display. There are various search filters for All, Classes, Files, Symbols, Actions, and Git. The search term is
The usage of the To find Movement menu inside of PhpStorm.

When you begin to sort in this space, you’ll be confirmed a dynamic file of directions and an identical shortcuts. You can moreover find a PDF version of all keyboard shortcuts at some point of the Lend a hand > Keyboard Shortcuts PDF menu.

If you wish to have additional of a real-time check out shortcuts as you are hired with the mouse, JetBrains provides the Key Promoter X plugin:

A PhpStorm interface window, showing a number of options to find files and projects alongside the corresponding shortcuts. There are two notifications in the bottom right-hand corner with the format of
The PhpStorm interface showing Key Promoter X notifications.

This at hand instrument will display notifications of your latest performed movement, along with its an identical keyboard shortcut. When you learn and use the shortcuts, you are able to phase this plugin out and service that valuable authentic belongings on your visual display unit.

As any developer can attest, code isn’t able for manufacturing after the primary draft. Debugging is key- which is the place Xdebug is available in 🐛Click on to Tweet

Summary

The follow of debugging has come a ways from its humble beginnings; it now encompasses a much broader scope than its progenitors will have most likely imagined. To carry out an in depth activity relating to fixing your PHP code, you’ll wish to use a competent instrument. There are many superb extensions and gear to choose from, alternatively Xdebug is an debatable frontrunner.

As we’ve noticed, Xdebug can adapt to even one of the vital eclectic of tastes in code editors, and it’s specifically great when paired with PhpStorm. Then again, irrespective of your setup, there will steadily be a version of Xdebug to suit your needs. On the whole, it’s an excellent, flexible, and intuitive instrument to use.

Do you suppose Xdebug deserves its most sensible praise, or is there another debugging instrument that you just want? Let us know inside the comments phase beneath!

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